Olympic – 2:15:07, 18th overall, 4th age group
With a sprint distance PB a few weeks before, and a 10k run PB earlier in the spring, things were looking particularly good for the lead up. I’ve been swimming with a new masters swim team and really feel I’ve been building technique as well as more comfort with being a well-rounded swimmer. However, about a week and a half before the race I started to feel “a little something” in my left knee. Coming back from camping for the Canada Day long weekend I went on a bit of a heavy biking set, riding daily between my road bike, cross bike, and TT bike. Attempting to run on the Monday of race week I only got 600m until patella-femoral pain sent me limping home. I tried a little walk/jog later that week but basically was going in with no running. My hope was that a bit of time off had done the trick.
Bluewater is another great local race. Run by one of the nearby churches, it is renowned for the post-race food spread. Personally, I like it for the pan-flat bike course and the shoreline swim! My friend Mike Cooke (perennial age group winner) had put in a little challenge for me as we went 1-2 in the age group last year, so I had chasing him as a goal (knowing he would have several minutes on me in the swim). Race day looked promising as the run was a struggle of punishing heat last year, but this year it was nice and overcast. I was even looking forward to what might be my first ride in the rain during a race.
Swim – 1100m – 23:38 (2:09/100m)
The swim is a beach start with the first turn buoy a mere 30 metres or so from the shore. I decided to line up right amongst the stronger swimmers and setup for a good position around the buoy. It worked out quite well, and I got in front of most of the crowd. The rest of the swim is a straight shot parallel to shore, for a rather shortened 1100m swim. Now, about 30 swimmers passed me during the rest of the race, but at least they had to go around me and I could just swim my swim.
In flat, clear water, I probably should have done a bit better time. I find that in a race I settle into a bit of a survival stroke, which is a rather ugly straight arm, dropped hip, high head affair. It wasn’t until about 300m left in the swim that I settled into a more efficient, focused, and fast pace. Part of the challenge was that I found a nice pair of feet to swim on, and although it was a bit slow, I didn’t feel particularly motivated to sacrifice the draft and go around. I did, however, want to tap him on the shoulder and let him know if he tightened up his floppy kick we could both pick the pace up a bit 🙂
The best part of this swim for me is that there is a long run back into transition. I tend to take my wetsuit off right at the exit of the swim so I can sprint into transition. Seeing Jordan Powers at the swim exit was a good sign, as he swims a lane up from me in the pool. Into transition, and again Coach Gabbi was there telling me it was “HAMMER TIME!” on the bike.
Bike – 40k – 1:03:51 (37.6kph)
Smooth transition and out to the bike, and my water bottle ejected itself as I ran the bike over some bumps out of transition. I had meant to bring some tape to secure it, as this has happened before, but because it isn’t part of my regular prep I forgot again. I’ve added it to my race morning cheat sheet, so shouldn’t forget again. However, it was a smooth mount and out on the bike to quickly pick up positions. I was careful this time not to pull the straps of my shoes right out of the clip, so getting them done up was fast and fuss-free.
The bike, as mentioned, is totally flat. There was a bit of a headwind on the way out so I tried to be patient and ride within myself. Essentially, the current sensation I ride for is to ride within my breath, and beyond my legs. Meaning, my breathing and heartrate should be managed (I use my ability to drink as an indicator, if I’m too winded to swallow, I’m spinning to hard), but my legs should slowly tire through the duration. With the sprint distance athletes out on course and the olympic distance women starting 16 minutes before the men, there are always a lot of targets (and mini drafts) to keep you moving forward.
Shortly before the first turn around I spotted Mike, and he had a good 5 minutes or so on me, so a catch on the bike was pretty much out of the question. By the second turn around, it was clear I wasn’t making up on time on him. However, I also spotted Ray Currie closer ahead, who I wouldn’t catch on the bike, but would give me a bright orange target (Balance Point Triathlon kit) on the run. Picking up on the tailwind on the way back I again focused on just riding hard but not so deep that I would be running flat. I’ll definitely be looking for a 40kph average in the future, but still have quite a bit of saddle time to put in to get there.
Run – 10k – 46:10 (4:37)
Smooth transition and out onto the run. This was going to be the big question mark: Would my knee hold up? Would I be plagued with a side stitch again? Out the gate things felt pretty good, kilometre 1 was a 4:20 pace to get sorted and kilometre 2 was 4:11 as my legs came alive. However, by kilometre 3 I started to feel the knee, and it seemed like a 4:20 pace was going to be as much as I could push without ruining it, but still allow me to pull back positions. By the halfway point I caught Ray and he commented, “What took you?”, which is more a testament to Ray’s fitness this year as he’s absolutely flying!
Heading back I was sitting somewhere around 13th and felt confident I had an age group podium tied up. Then, similar to Welland, disaster struck. However, this time it was a 1-2 punch. As you can see from the Strava profile, at the 6k mark the side stitch struck and I had to slow to walk three times. No sooner had I started back into a jog when the knee pain flared and I was stuck hop/trotting as fully extending or fully bending it were both unbearable. I watched in dismay as most of the guys I had caught on the run drifted by.
None of them were in my age group, but I knew I had passed Andrew Vendrasco and he couldn’t be too far behind. Sure enough, down the finish stretch he cruised by me into what would prove to be 3rd place in the age group, meaning my podium place was again lost by a matter of seconds. However, there was simply nothing I could do to go faster without being crippled by pain.
Bugger. Training as much as I do (10-13 times per week) at 35 years old, I know that injury is always lurking around the corner. And this time I knew the injury was already there, but hoped I could survive a 10k run. However, it’s time to get realistic and focus the next several weeks on physio and rehab. I’ve tackled patella-femoral before and it mostly consists of regular swimming, light biking, water jogging, and lots of physio. This is doable, but tragically I have to cancel the 4 day bike-packing trip I had planned for next week, and definitely won’t be healthy in time for Bracebridge, which was to be the chance to qualify for Duathlon Worlds in Denmark for 2018.
On the plus side, even with a hobbled run, I was still 4 minutes faster than last year, so the training is there. Slowing down to focus on physio is never a bad thing, as it can mean correcting bad habits and developing overall strength, stability, and form. I’ve got a month until the Goderich triathlon, so fingers crossed the knee will respond well.
Thanks as always to 3sixty5 Cycling for supporting my racing this year.